Dr. Jonathan Berger’s letter regarding PhilaU’s Master Plan & Proposed Zoning Change


Dr. Jonathan Berger
4101 Timber Lane
Philadelphia PA., 19129


Re: Philadelphia University Master Plan and Proposed Zoning Change

To The Members of the East Falls Community Council Zoning Committee

Dear Friends and Neighbors;

This past weekend- thru the newly posted web page- I became aware of the U’s proposed land use plan and proposed zoning changes. I take this opportunity to write to you as a lifelong resident of Timber Lane and as a practicing land use planner who also holds a PhD in environmental – city – and regional planning.

With my family of origin, I moved to Timber Lane in 1950. I spent my child hood walking to and from Timber Lane to Mifflin School and later to the bus to Central HS. I wrote my graduate school papers on the area and the Wissahickon. My grandparents Horace and Elizabeth Fleisher lived on Apalogen Road and all my playmates lived on Timber Lane and School House Lane. My mother Harriet Berger lived out her life on Timber Lane and after her death I restored the family home and now live there.

The U desires to change the zoning and with a free hand construct 20 buildings. These actions will forever change the character of the area. What has been for over 150 years a rural enclave in an industrial landscape will change to one of simply remnants of what was and be replaced by some form of an urban campus. If you want the proof, you simply have to look at what happened along School House Lane between Henry Avenue and Fox Lane.

 If allowed to go forward in the current configuration, the following adverse impacts will occur:

  • Loss of the historic and aesthetic character of the area
  • Massive increase of vehicular traffic along School House Lane, Coulter Street, Henry Avenue and other local roads.
  • Light pollution from high rise buildings into residential neighborhoods
  • Increase of ambient environmental temperatures during all seasons but especially in the hot summers. Increase in air pollution from cars and buildings.
  • Loss of privacy in the bordering residential areas
  • Channelization of ravines and streams
  • Encroachment on Fairmount Park
  • Filling in of the valley and hill side along Warden Drive.
  • Loss of passive recreation areas for local residents and students alike.
  • Loss of the character that attracts current day residential students and a degradation of the ease of access that helps attract commuter undergraduate and graduate students.

Some of these impacts can be mitigated by design considerations. Some cannot. My opposition to the plan and the proposed zoning changes is that the plan does not seek to retain character but in fact change it irrevocably.

If in fact the U wanted a long term plan and power to implement it which preserved and enhanced character this plan would look a lot different. For example, all new buildings would be hidden from the sight lines along School House Lane and Fox Lane. For example buildings would not encroach on Fairmount Park. For example the number of buildings would be substantially reduced in the current proposed zone and land in other parts of East Falls would be used to accommodate the needed growth. For example the land along Ridge Avenue between the City Avenue entrance ramp and the access road to the Falls Bridge lies vacant.

Of further concern is the abrupt nature of this process. I have just learned about this plan even though there has been a working group that has met for two years. Apparently this group did not deem it necessary to consult those folks who would bear the burden of these changes.

I suggest that the U take the next year to engage in a consultation process before proceeding to apply for a change in zoning.

I would like to meet with members of the zoning committee, individually and as a group to discuss my concerns. I will be at the February meeting.

I have been canvasing since the news broke and I have found some sympathy for the U in that it can be a good neighbor but also almost universal opposition to the change in zoning and the intensity of the development.

Sincerely yours

Dr. Jonathan Berger

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